I can strongly attest to the warming qualities of a Welsh blanket. Not the lovely soft lambswool sort you can buy now, but the solid, sturdy, tightly-woven kind made from sheep that appear so stoically waterproof their wool threatens to knit to the consistency of a waxed tarpaulin.

These were the blankets my childhood was made of, the bits that involved an unheated terraced cottage in the valleys, backed in to the hill, waiting for summer. Now the modern day descendants of such rug-like warhorses are making a showing in Shetland, whose sheep, I’m told, also do a fine line in stoic weather resistance.

It is the nurturing quality of the blanket that inspired curator and weaver Laura Thomas to put together Blanket Coverage in her native Wales, bringing together weavers and artists, some of whom were steeped in the Welsh double cloth (double sided) weaving tradition, some simply inspired by it, but all making their own very contemporary work in various parts of Wales and beyond, whether handwoven or industrially woven on the old family looms of Wales, of Lancashire and our own Borders, in Scotland.

The exhibition first opened at Llantarnam Grange in Cwmbran to the east of Cardiff, before touring to Oriel Davies Gallery in Powys, and now makes the somewhat more long haul hop to Bonhoga in Shetland, where the tally of weavers is increased by three local Shetlandic makers, Deborah Briggs, Emma Geddes of Aamos Designs and the Shetland Tweed Company.

“Every culture in the world has a blanket tradition,” says Thomas, introducing the exhibition. It is an inviting “blank canvas” for expression, and one of the rare “home furnishings” that can take a bold pattern in even the most conservatively decorated home. Hand woven and laborious, the stuff of tradition, or industrially woven and taken from the hands of crofters in to mass production, the blanket is a place where geometry, landscape, nature and human eclecticism collide on the warp and weft, a symbiotic relationship of pattern and colour.

There are all sorts of weaving traditions alluded to here, railing against any threat to the continuance of the craft, pushing boundaries in all directions, from the industrial(ish) represented by well-known Welsh mill Melyn Tregwynt, which makes historic and contemporary Welsh blankets and cushions, alongside clothing and other works, from their woollen mill on the coast in Pembrokeshire. Oliver tells me – laughing a little, for she says Shetland has the same perception problem – that the mill even has its own flock of sheep that produce softer wool than the coarser wools traditionally associated with the hardier varieties you find on the mountains of Wales and the exposed Shetlandic coast (“It keeps the rain out, though!” jokes Oliver, and I know exactly what she means), so that their contemporary blankets are incredibly soft yet weighty.

There are number of handweavers too, from Sioni Rhys, a duo who rework old Welsh designs in new colours from their studio couched up against the Black Mountains, to Maria Sigma, who has sustainability and simplicity as the guideline for her practice, and Margo Selby, who like many works first in handwoven samples before putting her designs in to commercial production.

Elsewhere, Meghan Spielman merges different weaving traditions, here specifically Ikat (a form which is thought to have originated in Indonesia, but crosses country boundaries) and double cloth, to create new works “informed by the structure and symbolism of the traditional narrow loom blanket found in many cultures across the world, including Wales.” Beatrice Larkin sketches out designs inspired by African textiles and architecture, bold jacquards woven in small quantities at a jacquard mill in Lancashire.

Others, such as Catarina Riccabona work with the usually hidden processes of the weave, making the knots and joins visible, showing the everyday necessities of putting a weave together. Angie Parker put together a joyful “Bristol Blanket” inspired by the architecture and community ties in Bristol, experienced during her lockdown walks. There are the heavy double-sized rugs (blankets) and more contemporary throws, and all items are available for sale.

Shetland’s own weaving tradition is a long one, marked in prehistory, and the contemporary incarnation is here in Deborah Brigg’s science-based woven musings, deeply colourful, inspired by nature, or Emma Geddes own work inspired by Shetland’s knitting and textile traditions, as well as the Shetland Tweed company’s fabrics inspired by the local landscape.

“It’s so lovely for our Shetland audiences to have a textile exhibition that isn’t primarily Shetland work,” says Oliver. “We’re so attached to the knitting, but it’s around us all the time, so to have the opportunity to have work here in the flesh made by makers that we haven’t seen before is fantastic.”

Blanket Coverage, Bonhoga, Weisdale Mill, Mainland, Shetland, 01595 745750 www.shetlandarts.org Until 13 Mar, Weds - Sun, 10.30am - 4pm

Critic's Choice

The buzz of degree shows has been sorely missed these past two years, not least if you're a graduating artist. But if you're going to have not had a proper degree show, then it's no mean consolation to find yourself up on the walls of the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, where the collection includes the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicolson, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Olafur Eliasson, et al. The Pier's long-standing “Recent Graduates” exhibition is a fine showcase of those Orkney-based artists who graduated in the previous year – here, the Covid years, 2019 – 2021 - whether at Orkney College (University of the Highlands and Islands) or Art Schools south, mostly denied a physical exhibition and the rough and tumble of installing one's work in whatever space the Art School gods have decreed is yours.

There's a wide array of work here from Orcadian graduates, of whom examples amongst the many are Orkney College students, Sarah Wylie, who looks for the overlooked spaces in the Orkney landscape, and Ruth Tait, a mature student who fulfilled a lifelong ambition to do an art degree when she retired, and has spent the last decade doing so (somewhat inspirationally) finally installing her degree show in a working barn.

Pier has, alongside many other arts organisations around the country, been active in working with local artists and communities during the pandemic, alongside their work with emerging artists in usual times. Their latest venture is a set of two three month bursaries for artists aged 18-24 – and particularly those “who experience barriers progressing their work as artists” - based in Scotland, giving them support including a two week residency in Orkney to engage with the collection, the islands, and local artists and makers. Those interested should contact Carol Dunbar at the Pier for more information, or drop by the reception desk on their way in to the Graduates show, of course.

Recent Graduates (sponsored by Sheila Fleet Jewellery), Pier Arts Centre, Victoria Street, Stromness, Mainland, Orkney, 01856 850209, www.pierartscentre.com, 12 Feb – 19 Mar, Tues – Sat, 10.3oam - 5pm

Don't Miss

High up in the former Observatory buildings on Edinburgh's Calton Hill, the emotive work of American artist, Cauleen Smith can be seen - and must very much be heard - in a piece filmed in New Orleans some nine years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina (2005). Smith has reinterpreted the iconic five notes from John Williams' score for Steven Spielberg's film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and given it to New Orleans musicians, who sound out the H-E-L-LO in places that mean the most to the community.

Cauleen Smith: H-E-L-L-O, Collective Gallery, City Dome, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, 0131 556 1264,www.collective-edinburgh.artUntil 1 May, Thurs - Sun, 10am - 4pm